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Military working dog honored in memorial, remembered by Airmen

Nero, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog passed away earlier this year and was honored in a memorial service on Peterson Air Force base July 21, 2011. Various 21st Space Wing members gathered together to remember Nero and his service, which spanned nearly a decade. Many Airmen on Peterson AFB remember Nero from around base for his long fur and lovable demeanor. Military working dogs are considered not just animals, but vital partners to their human comrades. The loss of a working dog is similar to the loss of any other member of the unit. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Nero, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog passed away earlier this year and was honored in a memorial service on Peterson Air Force base July 21, 2011. Various 21st Space Wing members gathered together to remember Nero and his service, which spanned nearly a decade. Many Airmen on Peterson AFB remember Nero from around base for his long fur and lovable demeanor. Military working dogs are considered not just animals, but vital partners to their human comrades. The loss of a working dog is similar to the loss of any other member of the unit. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Peterson Air Force Base High Frontier Honor Guard presents the colors prior to a memorial on July 21, 2011, for Nero, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog who passed away earlier this year. Military working dogs are considered not just animals, but essential partners to their human comrades. The loss of a working dog is similar to the loss of any other member of the unit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

The Peterson Air Force Base High Frontier Honor Guard presents the colors prior to a memorial on July 21, 2011, for Nero, a 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog who passed away earlier this year. Military working dogs are considered not just animals, but essential partners to their human comrades. The loss of a working dog is similar to the loss of any other member of the unit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Rob Bussard)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Nero was born in October 1999. Through an academy at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Nero completed both a patrol school and explosive detector school, and arrived at Peterson Air Force Base ready for duty less than three years later.

Nero, a military working dog, was honored at a memorial service July 21 at the Peterson AFB auditorium.

On the stage was a display honoring the bond between Nero and his handlers.

"The leather leash and chain represent the everlasting bond between dog and handler," said Staff Sgt. Tony Carter, 21st Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler and ceremony narrator. "The empty kennel where he once slept represents the life he gave to protect us, our brothers and sisters, and our freedom. The inverted bucket reminds us that Nero is no longer here to fulfill the need for food and water in a life that asked for no more in return than our companionship and our affection."

Maj. Ryan J. Millay, 21st SFS commander, remembered Nero as a loyal and constant companion to the squadron.

Nero was trained to detect odor concentrations of arms, ammunition and explosives, which are concentrations so small that even current equipment have trouble detecting. When he indicated the presence of these odors, he was rewarded with a toy called a Kong ball.

Nero conducted more than 4,200 explosive detector sweeps at Peterson AFB and along the Front Range, Millay said. He also deployed twice to support overseas contingencies operations.

"Without a doubt, Nero's contribution to base defense while deployed deterred terrorist efforts, fortified our installations, and ensured our success of our flying mission," Millay said.

Nero was a diligent working dog but he was also deeply loved by the people he met.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Igo, military working dog handler, was one of Nero's handlers for nearly four years. "He was a big, big pillow. Just a big ball of fur," Igo said. "Everywhere he went, he earned the love of everybody, just by looking at him, just because he was so adorable."

Besides the love of people, Igo said, Nero's favorite things were stuffed animals and "devil balls," little balls with feet and horns.

Nero passed away April 26 from kidney failure.

During the ceremony, a shadow box was presented to the 21st SFS. The box contained a photo of Nero framed by a collar, an American flag and a plaque with Nero's name, date of birth and the date he passed.

In closing thoughts, Igo passed along the final message from Nero's most recent handler, Staff Sgt. Jesse Herwick, 21st SFS military working dog handler.

"Dog done good."

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